February 23, 2011
Zairil Khir Johari is Political Secretary to DAP’s Secretary-General
by Clara Chooi @http://www.malaysiakini.com
Penang Chief Minister and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng has named newcomer Zairil Khir Johari, the son of the prominent UMNO stalwart, as his political secretary in what appears to be the DAP’s latest attempt to shake off its anti-Malay stigma.
The son of the late Tan Sri Mohd Khir Johari is the first Malay to be appointed political secretary to the Secretary-General in the history of DAP, which was founded in 1966. He joined DAP last year.
The Penang Chief Minister, however, stressed that Zairil’s appointment, effective today, had been based on the latter’s attributes and qualifications and not on his race.
The fact that Zairil is a Malay, he added, was “purely coincidence”.“It is not because he is a Malay but because he is a leaned individual. He can probably even teach me things that I do not know,” he told a press conference today.
The Bagan MP added that a person’s level of competency is “race-blind” and not “race-specific”.
“Zairil is an entrepreneur, an idealist and a reformist — a truly dangerous combination. The fact that he is all that makes him fit the bill for our requirements… it is by coincidence that he is a Malay. With his extensive experience and positive contributions to the party, we feel that he can help us to bring real change,” he said.
Lim, however, admitted that DAP’s popularity among the Malays could improve with Zairil’s involvement in the party, but stressed that support should be attracted based on a community’s needs.
“We do not want to attract support based on race but on needs. And if the Malays have the greatest needs, then they should be the main beneficiaries.Zairil happens to be a Malay but it is about his attributes and qualifications first and only then, as a coincidence, our Malay votes may improve,” he reasoned.
Lim said that the “anti-Malay” tag on DAP had been created due to the success of Barisan Nasional’s political propaganda.
“We have never been so… it has always been the success of the propaganda of BN that we are anti-Malay or anti-Muslim so we have to break and fight this.
“I do not want to concede that we are a racist party like UMNO. No, we are open to all Malaysians and of course if Zairil or anyone else can help us to breach the gap, then that would be a step in the right direction,” he said.
Lim however admitted that Zairil has only been a DAP member for about six months, but insisted that Zairul with his qualifications could assist the party well.
“We want to reach out to all, including the Ibans, Kadazans, Chinese, Indians, Malays. It is not about race or ethnicities.
“We talk about the lowest 40 per cent of household income earners, most of whom are Malays. We want to focus on this group,” he said.
Lim added that DAP’s Malay support had improved since Elections 2008 but noted that it was difficult to ascertain if this could help Pakatan Rakyat affect significant changes in the government.
“But if you look at our support, it is much more now than before 2008. In Penang where I am CM, the Malays can see how we have made Penang cleaner and greener,” he said.
Zairil later told the media that he chose to join DAP as he had wanted to be on the side of “what I feel is right”. “When I first wanted to get involved in politics, I spoke to many people. I made up my mind that I want to be with what I feel is right which is PR,” he said.
He added that Lim had already given him many duties and pledged that he would work “25 hours a day” for the party.
“Any work that YAB Lim gives out is not easy because he is a very hardworking boss who works 24 hours a day. So we have to work 25 hours a day,” he said. Zairil will serve Lim as political secretary in the latter’s position as DAP secretary-general and will be based at the party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
The 28-year-old is a Master of Arts graduate in International Studies and Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London. He also has a degree in Information Systems Engineering and was an entrepreneur in the chocolate industry, where he introduced the first full-coloured chocolate printing technology in Malaysia.
The father of one comes from a family of nine siblings including himself and his father was formerly the education minister who served three prime ministers including the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, the country’s first prime minister.